Deep burgundy in color, the nose on this Alexandria Nicole Cellars 07 Merlot is subtle cherry, dried plum, tobacco, beef jerky and hint of smoke on the nose. On the palate, the fruit of this Washington Merlot is subtle, appearing predominantly as tart cherry and that is more prevalent on the lingering finish. Mid palate is smoke, spice and assertive tannins. The strong acidity and tannins beg me to pair this wine, so I did.

Attending my first happy hour at the Woodinville tasting room, I paired the complimentary tidbits with the Merlot. Spicy salami with its tantalizing fattiness was superb. The slightly rough edges of this recent release smoothed right out, allowing new layers of flavors to emerge like riper, plush cherry and spice. Prosciutto transformed this Merlot into velvet with subtle nuances. I got more herb than spice when paired with the Prosciutto. Still, this Washington Merlot retains a pleasing tannin grip.

If I was buying a bottle just to sip, I would cellar it another 6 months. This Alexandria Nicole Cellars 07 Merlot evolves so pleasantly with food. It would be an excellent choice to serve at your holiday parties, with an assortment of rich and flavorful appetizers. It pairs well with assertive sharp cheeses and the cheese brings out different nuances of the wine. While I was drinking this wine, I kept imagining pancetta wrapped tenderloin served with roasted butternut squash served with gorgonzola and fried sage!

This wine was sold at $8/glass for happy hour. The bottle of Merlot retails for $24 is widely available.